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Super Bowl: When tentpole television goes fully digital, how does tentpole marketing adapt?

By Evan Hanlon, Director, Audience Strategy



Opinion article

January 30, 2015 | 4 min read

With NBC set to stream Super Bowl XLIX along with hours of pre-game coverage through its TV Everywhere app this Sunday, it’s a good time to reflect on how marketers are adapting to this changing media landscape.

Evan Hanlon

When tentpole television goes fully digital, how does tentpole marketing adapt?

Digital fragmentation has destroyed the sixties-era media monoculture with the exception of one key category: major, live event programming, and there’s no TV event more major or more live than the Super Bowl.

Yet change is not only coming, it’s here.

Second screening has already provided two shifts: the first is through Twitter, where brands are increasingly representing themselves as just 'one of the guys' in the broader conversation.

The breakout moment for this kind of social commentary came during the 'Blackout Bowl' two years ago – when the power temporarily went out at New Orleans’ Super Dome, Oreo punctuated the pause with its now famous 'You can still dunk in the dark' tweet.

The second change comes courtesy of data-savvy marketers taking a grassroots, outside the tent approach to major events.

Case in point: Nike’s dominance of the last World Cup with its highly lauded 'Risk Everything' pan-digital blitz.

The three short films in the 'Risk Everything' series garnered more than 400m total views showing that smart brands can make their own fortunes regardless of media platform.

These successes in digital ingenuity are just the start, the second screen has provided plenty of opportunity for marketing activities that are event-adjacent.

It’s also ultimately subservient to the main screen, television.

True innovation, however, will come when tentpole television becomes screen-agnostic.

It’s at that point that programmatic technologies will become critical in solving the paradox of making a universally shared experience personal.

A shared experience doesn’t mean shared taste, and with more than 110 million people tuning into the Super Bowl, a single brand message isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Creative teams will need technologies like LookAlive Labs that can leverage data in real-time to adapt to each viewer situation.

That viewer data will also be critical in distributing the brand experience across the broader event archipelago, from Facebook to Vine, to the comment sections on a local sports blog.

Video, mobile, paid social and content marketing campaigns will all have to speak with one voice as the viewers of Super Bowl L to C navigate an increasingly decentralized broadcast.

Perhaps the biggest game-changer, however, will be in who and how brands are able to participate in the tentpole.

Right now, Super Bowl ads are an all-or-nothing affair requiring deep pockets and a blockbuster mindset.

Programmatic technologies introduces any number of new buying strategies.

Advertisers could easily secure guaranteed reach against their key audiences while passing on unwanted impressions to a secondary market of smaller brands eager to get into the game.

With just over 500,000 viewers streaming Super Bowl XLVIII, a digitally native experience is still pretty far downfield, but television’s convergence with the connected universe is approaching rapidly.

Smart TV’s, over-the-top content, and app-based streaming are here to stay, and smart content providers like the NFL and NBC are preparing for the future of tentpole television.

It’s time that both advertisers and the ad tech world start thinking about how programmatic technology will play a pivotal role in the last frontier of old world marketing.

Evan Hanlon, vice-president, strategy and investment, Xaxis

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